Society is always finding better and more efficient ways to do things. In some ways, this is great. My life is definitely better thanks to the tap and go chip on my credit card, the Yelp app on my phone, and the ability to buy movie tickets online.
But in other ways, it isn’t so great.
I’m talking about cooking here.
Now that frozen meals with appealing pictures on the packages are readily available, and drive thrus are on nearly every major corner in a city, and gourmet grocery stores are offering ready made meals (even healthy ones), people are not cooking as often. And since people aren’t cooking as much any more, kids aren’t learning to cook either, perpetuating the problem.
I’m generalizing here because of course not everyone has abandoned cooking. But even if they haven’t, it’s still not always being passed on to their children. Soccer practice, book club, working late and the general rush of western life means that most people (understandably) just can’t find the time to teach their kids about food.
Which is why I’m glad that Jamie Oliver started Food Revolution Day (that’s today!) – a global campaign to promote mandatory food education for children in schools. This is something I strongly believe in for so many reasons. Not only could it have positive benefits for health, but it also would reinforce the advantages of home cooking for cost savings, family bonding, and socializing.
Along with signing his petition for mandatory food education in schools, today I also wanted to do my part by sharing with you 8 ways to teach children about food!
1. Take them to the farmers market in the summer – between the colourful produce and the live music that is often there, there’s actually a lot of entertainment for kids to be found at farmers markets. And it’s a great time to talk to them about where food really comes from (i.e. not a box)!
2. Go to a local pick-your-own farm – having worked at a farm one summer, I can definitely attest that kids adore pick-your-own type farms. I remember seeing kids come out of the strawberry patch, their faces covered in red juice, with the biggest smiles on their faces! Not only is it a fun activity for them, but it also helps them learn about the work that goes into farming and harvesting food.
3. Take them grocery shopping – taking your kids to the grocery store will help them learn how to pick out healthy foods. It’s a great opportunity to teach them practical tips like how to choose a ripe avocado and what’s the difference between cuts of meat, as well as nutrition skills like reading food labels. You can make it fun for younger kids by playing games, like “I Spy” or “20 questions” too.
4. Enlist their help in the kitchen – getting your kids to help you in the kitchen is the best way to give them the practical food skills that they’re going to need once they move out on their own. Eat Right Ontario has a great resource with suggestions for how kids of different ages can help in the kitchen. As kids get older, they can do more than just help out with cooking. Give them some responsibility by asking them to choose what vegetable they want with dinner, asking them to pick what to make for dinner for one night, and even getting them to prepare the dinner themselves when they’re ready!
5. Give them a vegetable plant or herb to grow in your garden – give them responsibility for looking after it and let them choose how to cook with it once it’s ready to eat! This is a great way to get kids to try new vegetables, as they’ll be a lot more likely to try a new vegetable they’ve grown themselves.
6. Do research together to answer their questions about food – kids are always full of questions. If they ask you a question about food that you don’t know, make it your “project” to do research together to find out the answer.
7. Expose them to different foods and cuisines – try out new vegetables you find at the farmers markets, take them to ethnic restaurants, and go out to authentic local restaurants when travelling to give them a broad appreciation for all the different foods and cuisines out there!
8. Advocate for food and nutrition education in schools – like I’ve already said, one of the biggest missing pieces from children’s food education these days is the lack of education in schools. Not all parents will have the time, knowledge, or inclination to teach their kids about food, so it’s important that all kids receive some kind of standardized food education in school. If you believe in this, make sure to sign Jamie Oliver’s petition for compulsory practical food education in schools!
Do you think mandatory food education should be implemented in school curriculums?